Sunday, 12 August 2018

The Meg

Accentuate The Posi-Stath, Eliminate The MegaTeeth

The Meg
2018 China/USA Directed by Jon Turteltaub
UK cinema release print.

Based, very loosely from what I can gather, on the first of a series of novels by Steve Alten called Meg - A Novel Of Deep Terror, this film has been stuck in Hollywood development hell for just over 20 years. However, it’s finally surfaced into the wild waters of your local dodgyplex cinemas so you can enjoy The Meg in the cinematic environment it was best designed for.

The film tells a cautionary tale of what happens if you let the giant sized, likeable personality of modern action cinema named Jason Statham go toe to toe with a giant, pre-historic shark called Megaladon. I loved the trailer to this and it was a no brainer that if you put The Stath against a giant sized shark in your movie then I was going to be first in line to see this thing when it finally hit cinemas. Despite some problems in terms of the audience this has been pitched towards, because of just what the producers have allowed to be ‘gotten away with’ in terms of a piece of art depicting the eating habits of a vicious predator, I can confirm that the film is, indeed, a bit of a fun ride and definitely worth a watch if you are into shark movies.

Now, the premise is that, after a pre-credits sequence where a top Navy undersea rescue guy called Jonas, played by the always watchable Statham, has to sacrifice the lives of two of his crew to save many more because he saw something big which nobody else believes exists... we have a crew from a big, billionaire funded ocean research base penetrating the shelf of the ocean as they’ve figured out it’s actually just a bit of cold cloud keeping the mysteries of the ‘even deeper undersea world we’ve never seen before’ away from the rest of the ocean. Of course, the sub and crew they send down there runs into trouble so Jonas is pulled out of self-imposed retirement to help out and, when the rescue is accomplished (not without cost) he bonds with the team as they fight to track down and destroy a giant megaladon shark which escapes from ‘the other undersea kingdom’ and keep it from chowing down on pretty much everyone in the vicinity.

So, yeah, as you would expect, this film is full of shark/action movie clichés but it’s also, to a certain extent, self aware of the silly concept and you have an excellent cast headed by Statham, ably supported by the likes of Bingbing Li, Winston Chao, Ruby Rose and Cliff Curtis... all pitching in to give a credible set of performances to help the audience suspend their disbelief and to make sure they’re rooting for the right people. We even have Rainn Wilson playing the walking cliché of a  half likeable, half dangerous and clueless billionaire to give the audience a ‘corporate greed’ style character to be wary of. And it’s great fun.

Now, the film does do a lot of stuff which is a little frustrating in terms of trumpeting the fact that it probably doesn’t think much of the intelligence of the audience a great deal in several places. For instance, there’s a sequence where the camera suddenly and for no apparent reason switches to a POV of the character in the water and, every time that character suddenly looks under the water to try and see the title creature, the camera goes down and then comes back again. Of course, you just know that on the last time the camera goes under the shark is going to be right up close and personal and, although you feel the almost obligatory tension in the way this small sequence has been constructed, you kind of are already fed up with it before it’s even played out. So it’s a shame that this is a trick the director uses at least two variations of throughout the running time of the movie.

Another thing the director seems to like to do here is a lot of double takes of things happening. So, for instance, you’ll have the shark come towards the camera and then get a reveal to show that the behemoth of the depths has missed its human target before, oh no, it’s just come straight back for another chomp, kind of modus operandi. Again, I don’t mind it once but it does get predictable, especially in the demise of one of the main characters about two thirds of the way through the movie and, although it certainly doesn’t kill the fun of the piece, it does get played out after a very short time.

The main problem here, though, is the lack of blood and gore on display in the picture, considering it’s a shark movie. There’s way less than even the original Jaws and it really says a lot about the mentality of the studios behind these things that this has a 12A, kid-friendly rating on a movie which is supposed to be about big teeth and rending flesh. Even a small sequence which 'makes a thing' about a discarded limb fished out of the ocean doesn’t really have any blood to be seen in it and is executed in the most kid-friendly manner you could think of... and if you have read some of my previous reviews you’ll know I am not happy about movies that deliberately hide the consequences of violence to get a lower rating. If kids can’t see the consequences of these kinds of things then they are more likely to rush blindly into danger themselves, is my take on that whole bloodless violence phenomena which seems to have overtaken the American studio picture.

All that being said, though, I still had a pretty great time with this movie and especially with the ‘French ending’ which I shall say no more about... except to gracefully acknowledge that I like the odd pun. I’d quite like to hear the score on this one away from the images but, alas, it’s only available as a download and not on a proper CD so it looks like I’ll have to give that purchase a miss. Still, a likeable movie with a few genuine surprises... in the way they’ve been executed at least, if not in terms of expectation of something happening in any given scene... and this should be a definite crowd pleaser of a piece.  That is, if your crowd happens to be composed of people who like watching shark bait splashing around in the water and causing general mayhem and havoc as the stupid humans in the way of the title character try to escape the big chomp. The Meg is definitely better than some of the more recent shark movies I’ve seen in cinemas over the last two years and worth taking the swim to your local for.

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